Ramla is a city in central Israel. The city is predominantly Jewish with a significant Arab minority. Ramla was founded circa 705–715 AD by the Umayyad Caliph Suleiman ibn Abed al-Malik after the Arab conquest of the region. Ramla lies along the route of the Via Maris, connecting old Cairo (Fustat) with Damascus, at the intersection of the roads connecting the port of Jaffa with Jerusalem.
It was conquered many times in the course of its history, by the Abbasids, the Ikhshidids, the Fatamids, the Seljuqs, the Crusaders, the Mameluks, the Turks, the British, and the Israelis. After an outbreak of the Black Death in 1347, which greatly reduced the population, an order of Franciscan monks established a presence in the city. Under Arab and Ottoman rule the city became an important trade centre. Napoleon's French Army occupied it in 1799 on its way to Acre.
Most of the town's Arab residents were expelled or fled during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War while others remained in the town. The town was subsequently repopulated by Jewish immigrants. In 2001, 80% of the population were Jewish and 20% Arab (16%Muslim Arabs and 4% Christian Arabs).
In recent years, attempts have been made to develop and beautify the city, which has been plagued by neglect, financial problems and a negative public image. New shopping malls and public parks have been built, and a municipal museum opened in 2001.
Today, five prisons are located in Ramla, including the infamous maximum-security Ayalon Prison